2022 Hyundai Elantra N First Drive Review: Big Grin Machine

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 2.0L I4 Turbo
Output: 276 hp, 289 lb-ft
Transmission: 6MT/8DCT, FWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 20/30/23 (DCT), 22/31/25 (MT)
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 11.8/7.8/10.2 (est, DCT), 10.7/7.6/9.4 (est, MT)
Starting Price (USD): $34,000 (est, inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $36,000 (est, inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $41,500 (est, inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $43,750 (est, inc. dest.)

Front-drive sedans aren’t supposed to act like this.

I’m in the middle of a quintet of Hyundai N cars snaking around the rolling hills of Sonoma Raceway. The track is damp, but even still, it’s clear that the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N ahead is hanging its tail out in nearly every corner. Did Hyundai stuff an AWD system under there after all?

Nope. While the Elantra N might be a front-drive sport compact, it’s far from a buttoned-up, conservative drive. The newest member of the segment comes correct with an engaging chassis and muscular powertrain, combining for a sizzling drive on the road and track. It’s just a little wild, and shouldn’t that be what this class is all about?

What’s new?

The basic ingredients that make up this concoction are pretty well-known quantities. Take one Elantra, drop in the raucous 2.0-liter turbocharged mill from the Veloster N, and stand back for a real Coke-and-Mentos-like display.

Hyundai has fine-tuned the chemical reaction for what it’s calling the second generation of N cars, however. That little four-pot is torquier than before, now spitting out up to 289 pound-feet. Horsepower sits at 276, though dual-clutch-equipped models can bump that to 286 for short 20-second intervals with a poke of the steering wheel-mounted N Grin Shift button. (A slick-shifting six-speed manual is standard.) The combination of a trick, WRC-inspired front suspension design and electronic limited-slip differential harnesses the power coursing through the front tires. The contact patches are even wider now too, with 245-section Michelin Pilot Sport 4S meats wrapped around eye-catching 19-inch wheels.

You won’t miss the N-specific tweaks to the exterior, either. Hyundai has fit the requisite low-hanging bumpers front and rear, with functional ducting to keep the big brakes (14.2-inch front, 12.4-inch rear) cool. A contrasting black wing and two large exhaust pipes punctuate the rear. Hyundai says the blacked-out front end is meant to evoke a racer’s helmet. To these eyes, it looks like what happens when a video game can’t render the front bumper. The overall Elantra shape is good—especially in Performance Blue—but the details can detract. Does that matter from inside the car, though?

2022 Hyundai Elantra N driving impressions

Hyundai sets us loose on the full layout in the morning, in a mix of the Elantra and Kona N models (full story on the latter later today). The Elantra’s steering has a positive, natural weight to it, making it a joy to point towards the apex as the pro out front gradually ups the pace of the pack. There are numerous settings for aspects like the suspension, transmission, and throttle, allowing drivers to tailor the car to their tastes. Mapping these preferences to the blue quick-access buttons on the steering wheel makes it easy to swap in and out of a preferred setup should the right time strike.

SEE ALSO: Honda Civic Type R vs Hyundai Veloster N: Fast Goodbye

This is Sonoma Raceway though: every second on the track is the right time. After overnight showers, the track is slowly drying, and there are still damp spots, especially off the racing line. I discover one such place on my second lap, where a combination of slightly wide line and lifting off the throttle results in surprising sideways action. The Elantra gathers itself up naturally, but it’s a reminder that this isn’t one of those only-understeer front-drivers the comments sections of the internet insist are so common. In fact, the Elantra doesn’t ever seen to want to understeer, the wide Michelins extracting grip from the tarmac through every turn.

The long wheelbase keeps the Elantra feeling secure at extra-legal speeds, especially through the tricky S-bends on the tail-end of the lap. Throw out the anchors and the big discs haul the Elantra down without fade time and again, even from the triple-digit speeds heading into the hairpin at T8. There’s a wonderful tractability to the engine, too. While max torque arrives later (2,100 rpm) than it does in the older Veloster N, there’s more of it, and it lasts to the same point, making the Elantra feel quicker. There’s a satisfying bass to the exhaust note too, with cracks and bangs punctuating downshifts as they echo off the trackside walls.

Despite all this fun, the Elantra’s ride never feels too stiff. Firm, sure, but more in control than anything.

Over the course of the hotlapping (and later autocrossing), I swap between manual and DCT cars. The manual is good fun, with a positive clutch and accurate throws between the gears. Hyundai’s DCT is a great example of the breed though, and a tough one to beat. The eight-speed always has the right ratio for the job, and pulls on the paddle shifters earn near-instant responses. The paddles are mounted to the wheel and not the column however, which makes it hard to keep track of them when, say, you’re wheeling the car through a cone labyrinth, on the hunt for pro racer Mark Wilkins’ time.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N interior and comfort

Suddenly, that grab handle protruding out of the dashboard doesn’t seem so silly now, does it?

Okay, it’s still a little silly.

SEE ALSO: Hyundai Elantra N Line vs Volkswagen Jetta GLI Comparison: Healthy Competition

The wraparound dashboard design gives the Elantra the air of a premium car. Surely the all-black-everything color scheme does, too—even if the plastic around the center console and the door panels can’t match up. There are large swathes of Alcantara to provide tactile joy, and the material keeps butts glued to the N-specific sport seats. These thrones are one of the Elantra’s advantages over the taller, more practically-shaped Kona N. Mounted nice and low, with good (manual) adjustment ranges and strong lateral support, the seats are excellent.

I only wish there were a little more cabin flare to match the sparkling dynamics and extrovert exterior. Maybe don’t dump a whole bucket of Performance Blue in here, but more accents beyond the wheel-mounted N buttons and some contrast stitching wouldn’t go amiss.

As an honest-to-goodness sedan, the Elantra shades the smaller Veloster for passenger space. You can fit three of your friends in here without issue; four if they’re close. The trunk will easily swallow two weeks’ worth of groceries, too.

2022 Hyundai Elantra N technology and features

Hyundai’s press release comes chock full of acronyms. For the day’s track-oriented driving, there are two that stand out: NGS and NTS.

NGS is the afore-mentioned N Grin Shift. Replacing the manual car’s rev-matching button, the red NGS button unlocks an extra 10 hp in the DCT-equipped model. For 20 seconds, the Elantra feels that much more eager—NGS should come in handy at many a stoplights.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI and R Evolve the Hot Hatch, Arrives Late This Year

N Track Sense Shift—don’t ask about the other S—is meant to optimize DCT shift points for ideal track driving. It’s convincing: when caning the Elantra on the track, it holds the gears right up to redline; on the road, one quick full-throttle blat for a pass doesn’t result in the car holding onto revs for the next few miles.

Beyond that, the N treatment brings in some other tech goodies. The central 10.25-inch touchscreen picks up a performance tab, which shows all manner of nerdery to digest, like real-time horsepower and torque figures, as well as a track map app. Another 10.25-inch screen sits ahead of the driver, with customizable gauges, including a sweet fire animation for full N duty. The sound system is fine, though if you’re a purist, you might find the pumped-in engine noises it produces offensive. Personally, I’m fine with it; the raw exhaust note is sweet, so why is hearing more of it a bad thing?

Final Thoughts: 2022 Hyundai Elantra N First Drive Review

Hyundai wouldn’t confirm 2022 Elantra N pricing at the time of writing, but a spokesperson did suggest we look at the historic pricing of the Veloster lineup to gauge where the Elantra N will fall. With that in mind, we’d estimate a starting price around $34,000 US, or $41,500 CAD. The only option will be the transmission choice.

If the company can bring the Elantra in at that price point, it should do very well. A few thousand more than a Honda Civic Si or Volkswagen Jetta GLI, yes, but more power and a more focused drive than either. Meanwhile the Golf R is over $10,000 more, and the next Civic Type R probably won’t be too far off.

The 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is a proper sport compact, all fiery, barely-contained enthusiasm. It’s quick and involving, encouraging drivers to explore its considerable limits, and even to step over that line. When they do, they’ll have a smile almost as big as the one on the front of the Elantra.


How much is a 2022 Hyundai Elantra N worth?

Pricing is unavailable right now, but should ring in slightly above the older, smaller Veloster N.

When can you buy the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N?

Hyundai says the Elantra N will be available before the end of 2021, so if it isn’t at your local dealership now, it will be soon.

Does the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N come with an automatic transmission?

Yes: the N comes with a six-speed manual as standard, with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission optional.

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  • Effervescent powertrain
  • Playful handling
  • Likely performance bargain


  • Lift-off oversteer in the wet may come as a shock
  • Questionable visual changes
  • Interior doesn't feel as special
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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